City Guides » Well Being Guide

Do I need eight hours of sleep?

Will analyzing your bedtime data keep help you focus on getting a more shut-eye or keep you up at night?

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For my birthday I got a "wearable tech" gizmo, an UP bracelet that tracks both movement and sleep. Suddenly life was all about numbers: How many steps I walked that day, how much time I was active, how I was sleeping at night. I liked having daily goals—the 10,000 steps proving easier to get than the recommended eight hours of shut-eye—and loved that everyday life was multi-tasking as a data-driven self-improvement project.

To improve the improvement, before long I ditched the UP for the Basis fitness tracker, a clunky digital watch (I've started calling it training wheels for the Apple Watch). Where the UP is practically a piece of jewellery, the Basis is more tricorder, measuring heart rate, skin temperature and perspiration on top of counting steps. At night its detailed analysis, which produced the accompanying numbers, tells me everything about my sleep except how to get more.

For that I turned to Kathy MacPherson of MedSleep, a chain of sleep disorder clinics with an office in Dartmouth. On top of internet-standard advice like avoid caffeine before bed and establish a regular sleeping schedule, MacPherson encouraged me to relax about the recommended snoozing goal. "Sleep is a very subjective matter and varies from person to person," she says. "It is tough to generalize and say that everyone needs eight hours of sleep." Knowing that might just help me sleep easier.

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